NFL

NFL Week 16 Picks: Breaking Down Postseason Hopefuls That Will Fall on Sunday

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 15:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms up during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Ryan DavenportContributor IDecember 20, 2013

As is the case more often than not at this point in the season, a good chunk of the NFL's postseason picture still has yet to be determined. Just four teams have booked their tickets to the playoffs heading into Week 16. 

Needless to say, this will be a critical Sunday for many of the league's best, as eight spots remain up for grabs, and there are a handful of clashes between teams with playoff aspirations that will play big roles in whether they're in or out. 

And even for those with postseason berths in the bag, this is no time to coast, because an additional win could be extremely helpful in avoiding a potential Super Bowl contender in at least Round 1. 

With a slate full of meaningful showdowns on tap, here's a look at which playoff hopefuls will fall in Week 16. 

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Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

The Colts and Chiefs are both destined for the postseason, as both teams have secured their playoff spots heading into their Week 16 clash. But there's still a lot to play for here, especially if Chuck Pagano and Andy Reid both feel that they'd have an easier time handling the Cincinnati Bengals or Baltimore Ravens as opposed to each other in their Wild Card Games. 

Yes, the Denver Broncos still have to win out in order to clinch the AFC West, but one has to think that Peyton Manning's boys have a much better chance of doing so than Alex Smith's Chiefs, as Denver's two remaining games are against the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans. 

But the Colts, despite being 9-5, have not been overly convincing of late, losing three of their last six, including both of their last outings on the road. 

It's true that the Chiefs have dropped two straight at home, but after bouncing back with blowout wins against the Washington Redskins and Raiders away from Arrowhead Stadium, Reid's team looks primed to keep that momentum rolling against Andrew Luck and the Colts. 

The Chiefs have one of the game's most effective rushing offenses, and against the Colts' 27th-ranked defense versus the run, that will be the difference. 

Prediction: Kansas City 24, Indianapolis 20 

 

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

For all the injuries and distractions the Patriots have had to overcome this season, New England's 10-4 record is a testament to the discipline and resolve of Bill Belichick's team. But though they've compiled an impressive record, the Patriots have looked rather mortal in recent weeks (save for the comeback win over Denver), as they've lost two of their last three on the road.

In addition, the Patriots barely managed to defeat very mediocre opponents in the Texans and Cleveland Browns, and they fell to the Miami Dolphins, all in the last three weeks. The Ravens will be a far bigger challenge for Tom Brady and Co. 

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20:  Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens hugs head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots after winning the 2013 AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium on January 20, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Balt
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

With a win, Baltimore is in line for a playoff spot after reeling off four consecutive victories (as well as four straight at home). And given the team's recent success against New England, one has to think John Harbaugh's group is more than capable of taking care of business in Week 16. 

New England hasn't defeated anything close to a quality team on the road this year, and it has demonstrated a nasty habit of falling behind early—something it can't afford to do against Baltimore. 

Last season, the Ravens beat New England in the regular season and then in the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl, and they'll make it three in a row on Sunday. 

Brady always poses a threat, even without any headliners joining him on offense, but as we've seen, the Ravens don't need to put many points on the board in order to secure a victory. 

Prediction: Baltimore 20, New England 17

 

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

At 9-5, the Cardinals are in desperate need of a victory on the road against the vaunted Seattle Seahawks, as Arizona currently sits just outside of the postseason with two games to play. Unfortunately, getting the win against Pete Carroll's well-rounded squad won't be easy. 

In Week 7, Seattle handled the Cardinals on the road, emerging with a 34-22 victory that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. So far this season, four of Arizona's five losses have come on the road, and the only one it suffered at home was against this very team. 

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 9:  Larry Fitzgerald #11, of the Arizona Cardinals loses the ball to K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks getting the turnover on the play in the first quarter at CenturyLink Field on December 9, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Ph
Kevin Casey/Getty Images

The Seahawks defense is simply too stingy for Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald to get enough done through the air, especially after watching Seattle hold the All-Pro receiver to just two catches for 17 yards—not to mention it racking up seven sacks—during their last meeting.

Marshawn Lynch will certainly have a tough time against a very good Cardinals defense, but Seattle will get enough production out of Russell Wilson to move to 13-2. 

Prediction: Seattle 27, Arizona 14

 

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